My short bio: I work for the government to screen for invasive species. Often the only way to confirm species on moths is to dissect the male genitalia and count the spines, as well as looking at shapes of plates in their armor. I got the job through a reddit connection, and have been working there about 15 months.

Edit: the small thing above the moth eye is the ocellus - a primitive eye that looks at the sun.

Here is a blog with a bunch of my images from our local nature preserve.

Here is a video of a moth from Costa Rica that I was glad to spare from dissection.

I got this job through a reddit connection.

I have a BA in Asian Studies and an MS in Zoology.

My Proof: Some moth parts

Comments: 3071 • Responses: 57  • Date: 

w0nderbrad2645 karma

Is it true that black moths have bigger dicks?

Edit: Wow thank you for the gold. I'm glad we all share the same juvenile sense of humor.

w0nderbrad533 karma

Follow up question: Are adolescent moths permanently scarred for being a "grower" rather than a "shower" and being ridiculed in gym class and being nicknamed "Three Balls" or is that only the case in humans?

quaoarpower72 karma

Adolescent moths, or "caterpillars" as they're sometimes known, don't have any kind of genitalia worth mentioning at all. Think: two tiny discs under the skin.

Papacon7072022 karma

In your professional opinion, how large would Mothra's moth penis be?

quaoarpower2622 karma

At least 25 meters, fully extended.

LaoQiXian1157 karma

I have a phobia of these insects, specially the fat, furry ones... what's the best way to keep them at bay? How do I get them out of a room without touching or harming them?

quaoarpower1988 karma

For big fat furry moths, the easiest way is to put a cup over them, slide a paper between the cup and the wall/window, and carry them out. But just remember, they can't bite, they can't sting, they don't stink, so all they can do is get dust on you.

Darkwolf901436 karma

What exactly IS that dust? How does it get on their wings?

quaoarpower1159 karma

They build it during metamorphosis - it's loads of little scales

three18ti133 karma

So... what IS moth dust?

Also, isn't this kind like the Salem witch trials? If it sinks...

Also, if the only way to tell us by directing the... well it hurts to think about, but does that mean females have one too?

quaoarpower251 karma

It consists of tiny scales that cover the moth wing and assist it in flight.

Females have a different apparatus alltogether, which is less useful for telling moths apart. Female parts

jimlii1108 karma

Would you rather dissect 100 moth-sized penises or 100 penis-sized moths?

quaoarpower1449 karma

Penis-sized moths, please.

lulzbringer1096 karma

What's your favorite moth fact that most people wouldn't know?

quaoarpower2240 karma

I don't know about favorite facts, but the way the heads look up close is pretty phenomenal.

pmastap963 karma

Does penis size vary as often on moths as it does on humans? Also, have you ever witnessed a moth erection in action or does that not happen?

quaoarpower1521 karma

It definitely happens! I've witnessed it several times in nature.

Size does NOT vary much in the genitalia - even if the moth's body size is much smaller than his competitors, his junk is almost exactly the same.

yoreatowel960 karma

Do you handle any other insect penis or just moth dongs? Also is the moth member used for anything, medicine or mcdonalds secret sauce?

quaoarpower787 karma

I ask myself the same question every time I throw out the little cup of dissected ones! And yes, I sometimes do other insects, like sawflies and caddisflies

yoreatowel289 karma

Do you have a preference, like is a sawfly easier than a moth ir other insect?

quaoarpower768 karma

Moths are the easiest because I have the most practice, but I strongly prefer female spider genitalia

stellalaland286 karma

That picture is confusing. How does it work?

quaoarpower339 karma

More on that later!

HenryBard132 karma

C'mon man, don't keep us in suspense! What kind of spider was this? I need to know now.

quaoarpower258 karma

It's a Costa Rican jumping spider, Frigga pratensis, identified by my good friend /u/joot78

IAMA_SWEET784 karma

The AMA of the guy who dissects moth dicks is more popular than Ann Coulter's AMA. Just throwin' that thought out there. She is less popular than moth dicks.

quaoarpower854 karma

Aww yisss!

Aitticboy719 karma

You have a fantastic job title by the way, was just wondering how you got into the field, presumably you didn't wake up one day and decide that's what you wanted to do! Thanks

quaoarpower1383 karma

I am a zoologist, which can cover a lot of different specialties - but I focused on insects and spiders in my studies. I've had several insect-and-spider related jobs, and one bird job (watching tits in Finland!)

JonesBee213 karma

I'm sure you saw lots of great tits too? Jokes aside, whereabouts in Finland did you watch them?

quaoarpower294 karma


AmbassadorOfBears236 karma

I'm from Oulu, whoo!

quaoarpower227 karma

I used to live near Halpa-Halli

JonesBee95 karma

I hope you didn't try to learn the language there, what they speak hardly resembles actual Finnish.

quaoarpower177 karma

Tell me about it! I studied "book finnish" before I went, and couldn't understand anything!

nmgoh2642 karma

Well, I'll ask the obvious.

What's the biggest? What's average?

quaoarpower880 karma

The biggest I've seen is Helicoverpa zea which comes in at about 5mm. But I'm sure there are bigger ones out there.

Lobstertrainer632 karma

What tools do you use to dissect something so microscopic?

quaoarpower840 karma

I use two pins to pull out the genital capsule and spread the valves apart by stacking pins on the middle until it's flat, then I put a cover slip over it.

Juneauite522 karma

Do insects have tiny versions of STD's? Or STI's, whatever the kids are calling it now.

quaoarpower728 karma

So far as I know, they do not - but that may only be because nobody has looked for them before.

gregmcrtheused469 karma

I hope this isn't too personal but how much to you bring home a year as a zoologist? My SO wanted to get into the field but decided not to because it apparently doesn't pay very well.

quaoarpower818 karma

I'm ashamed of my income, so I prefer not to write it.

Ricktron3030484 karma

So looking at moth penises every day doesn't pay well?

quaoarpower726 karma

Not as well as it should, but there are definitely benefits.

theSchwa_was_here130 karma

Benefits... like touching moth penises?

quaoarpower450 karma

Like that I get to see shit like this on a daily basis.

HypocriticalElephant413 karma

Why are the government so interested in moth penises?

quaoarpower573 karma

To screen for invasive species - sometimes that's the only way to tell for sure which is which.

Axem_Ranger311 karma

Fun fact: Vladimir Nabokov (author of Lolita) studied butterfly genitalia for the same reason. So I guess you're in good company. Have you read any Nabokov, fiction or otherwise?

quaoarpower410 karma

Oh hell yes! I'm a big Nabokov fan.

tindy396 karma

Once you find that a moth is an invasive species, what can you do about it?

quaoarpower618 karma

It sets off a whole chain of events, but usually it shows up as a report first.

MrTyphoon346 karma

When people ask you what profession you're in, what do you tell them and what's their reaction?

quaoarpower549 karma

It varies, but mostly I get squints and shrugs.

Porkymon345 karma

You are awesome for doing this. I've always wanted to know, which insect is hung like a horsefly?

quaoarpower450 karma

Porkymon111 karma

What is the name of this little well endowed fellow?

quaoarpower159 karma

Shoot, I can't remember right now, but I think it's one of the Chrysops

1minuteman338 karma

have you ever stopped at work and wondered how the fuck you ended up chopping up moth dicks?........ and how does someone get a career doing that?

quaoarpower418 karma

I do wonder it, given that I prefer to be an educator.

kdawg2four285 karma

My friends went through a moth eating phase... I used to tell them they were gonna get some fucked up moth disease..Is this possible?

quaoarpower692 karma

So far, no. But we need more brave people like your friend to experiment!

IneptSketchAppeared271 karma

Are moths monogamous or will they bone hundreds of moth babes during thier lifetime? Howling do they live?

quaoarpower658 karma

So if you look at the the little spikes in the dicks, the moth loses some of them each time he mates. He can mate until he runs out of spikes or until his penis gets pulled off.

reegstah222 karma

How often does the penis get pulled off?

quaoarpower682 karma

I'd say about 1 in 10 of the ones I get have their penis pulled off.

stevo83190268 karma

Check out this moth/caterpillar I found and raised. Can you tell me anything cool about it!?

quaoarpower61 karma

Great pictures! I don't have anything offhand to tell you about this species.

hasanr219 karma

what did you want to be when you were little?

quaoarpower467 karma

A marine biologist

lil-hazza218 karma

Do male moths have testicles too?

quaoarpower394 karma

They do, but I don't dissect those.

Leighlol160 karma

TIL moths have penises. I assumed they had... cloacas or something. From someone with a crippling bug phobia, thanks for making me think about insect genitalia! Just how big a problem are invasive moths?

quaoarpower236 karma

HUGE problem. Nearly every crop has a moth that attacks it.

mechanubis149 karma

1: How exactly do moths reproduce?(is it semen or.... what?) 2: For the moth species that doesn't eat when it becomes an adult, do the males only have a limited amount of reproductive material?(kinda like human females with eggs) Since they can't eat I would think that they wouldn't be able to generate more right?

quaoarpower206 karma

Right - they are stuck with what they have built up from caterpillarhood. But the reproduction is pretty similar to mammalian, with a few weird twists. And yes, they only have a limited amount of reproductive material, but they usually don't live very long.


How many bugs would you screen on any given day? Or, maybe a similar question, what is a typical day for a moth penis dissector?

quaoarpower280 karma

Friday I did 305, Thursday 270. Usually I do a prep day and then a dissection day - prepping involves pulling off the abdomens and soaking them in KOH to soften them up - and of course, each one has to be accounted for and to stay near the moth it came from, so there's a lot of anal-retentive detail work.

abroindeed122 karma

Would you say that there are lapses in your capabilities to study insects considering your focus on zoology, as opposed to entomology?

And, how many insect cock jokes are there...? I can't think of one... at all.

quaoarpower155 karma

Not really - the great thing about studying insects is that there is inexhaustible source material - there's always more to discover and more to look at!

pompuss113 karma


I am doing a moth project for a graduate student in [important ecologist's] lab. I have to identify moths collected from Micronesia, and have begun this project with little to no knowledge on Lepidoptera taxonomy. How do I learn to identify moths, especially really freakin tiny ones?? Is there a helpful moth penis book I could use??


quaoarpower171 karma

SEND THEM TO ME! PM me and we'll see if we can work something out.

i7acoz89 karma

How do you dissect a moth penis

quaoarpower134 karma

You soften the abdomen in KOH, a caustic solution, then pull the genital capsule out, spread the valves, pull out the aedeagus, and flatten the whole mess under a cover slip.

Starriol88 karma

Which is your favorite insect penis? Also, on a related note, have you dissected the penis of any other animal? Please don't say human...

quaoarpower123 karma

I don't know if I have a favorite, but this one is pretty cool.

I've dissected lots of insect penises, and the parts that pass for penises in spiders.

pipusu88 karma

Why did you choose this career instead of a thousand others that a zoologist could get?

quaoarpower192 karma

Because there was a job available in my area. I've had a pretty varied career before this, that allowed me to travel to Finland, Hungary, Costa Rica, and Indonesia, all as paid gigs.

I_KeepsItReal79 karma

Would you work elsewhere if the opportunity presented itself? Are you paid well?

quaoarpower158 karma

yes, I would produce informative television or internet shows if I had the opportunity. I am definitely NOT paid well.

canada_darner68 karma

Are you the same quaoarpower that makes lots of youtube videos? I love your channel, your videos are funny, creative, and incredibly interesting! thanks for sharing them with the world, keep up the good work!

quaoarpower74 karma

That's me! Share those links, yo!

Unidan55 karma

I know in Drosophila there's a lot of interesting sperm competition stuff going on between males, does this exist for moths, too?

Are you aware of any sex protein type interactions (e.g. gluing females shut, filling up reproductive organs, making it so she's less interested in mating)?

quaoarpower48 karma

Sure, they use glue plugs to block other males, all that stuff.

Unidan27 karma

Cool, thanks for the response! :D

quaoarpower29 karma

Hey, what do you think about speciation in organisms that have mechanical barriers to miscegenation? I'm sure there are a lot of examples, but I am having a tough time figuring out how speciation could occur if an extraordinarily fit male also has genitalia that don't fit in with any of the local females. Does the question make sense?

Rivetbob42 karma

How bad should I feel about the moths and butterflies I caught as a child? I would cup them in my hands and shake them to get the dust of so they couldn't fly away.

quaoarpower95 karma

No, don't worry about them. Their cousins reproduce like 200 kids at a time. You can't make a dent in the population.

BumWarrior6942 karma

What sort of education is necessary to do your job?

If you had a fresh start in life, would you choose the same career?

Do you have any wild stories?

Thanka for the AMA!

quaoarpower81 karma

I have a background in zoology but my co-worker has no science background and dissects better than I do, so I guess diligence, a steady hand, and an eye for details. Fresh start in life? Hard to say. I don't think this is my long term career because I'm much more into spiders, but there's fewer opportunities there.

rawkstarerin40 karma

Okay, moth's really freak me out. I have phobia of anything that flies including birds. Moth's are really, really, really attracted to me, what can I do to not attract them? (Other than stay inside.)

quaoarpower86 karma

You can try a variety of volatiles, like mint oil, clove oil, neem oil, etc

savannahsucks35 karma

Clearly insects don't bother you... But do other animals or species bother you?

quaoarpower95 karma

Mosquitoes and fleas.

WeekDaysAreWeakDays18 karma

If you told your highschool self you were going to become a moth penis dissector what do you think your reaction would be?

What degree did you graduate university with?

quaoarpower33 karma

Asian Studies, focus on Chinese History! Then I went to graduate school for Zoology.

alaska766 karma

What exactly is different about the male genitalia on certain species of moths? Why is that the only part that varies and what are the variation factors?

quaoarpower11 karma

Whew, there are a lot. Compare these two for example. The wing pattern also varies, but sometimes it's impossible to see because the dust has been knocked off.

vaanar5 karma

I understand you're not be a pest control professional but I've so many tiny moths all over my room. I've no problem with the female ones but I wanna eradicate all the males. You seem like you know a thing or two about male moths.

quaoarpower9 karma

If you can catch some, kill them in the freezer, and send them to me, I can give you better advice. There's lots of small moths around that eat all kinds of things around the house.

HoudinisLeftNipple4 karma

How do they taste?

quaoarpower10 karma

If they taste like they smell, then it's like rotten fruit and gym socks.